BOOK Review: Odessa by Jonathan Hill

BOOK Review: Odessa by Jonathan Hill

Odessa by Jonathan Hill

Oni Press

Pub Date 10 Nov 2020 

Three siblings search for their missing mother across a ruined America in this original graphic novel perfect for fans of Scott Westerfeld and Neal Shusterman. 

Eight years ago an earthquake—the Big One—hit along the Cascadia fault line, toppling cities and changing landscapes all up and down the west coast of the United States. Life as we know it changed forever. But for Vietnamese-American Virginia Crane, life changed shortly after the earthquake, when her mother left and never came back.

Ginny has gotten used to a life without her mother, helping her father take care of her two younger brothers, Wes and Harry. But when a mysterious package arrives for her eighteenth birthday, her life is shaken up yet again. For the first time, Ginny wants something more than to survive. And it might be a selfish desire, but she’s determined to find out what happened to her mother—even if it means leaving her family behind.


Odessa is a good comic. The artwork is vibrant and engrossing. The characters, for the most part, are believable, likeable, and, well written. The opening three or four chapters are marvellous. However, the plot and uneven pacing let down the story resulting in a book which is merely good when it had the potential to be great. I would recommend buying the book because it is an enjoyable read.

Odessa follows the journey of a Vietnamese-American family trying to survive in a post-collapse society. It is a coming of age story and grand adventure tale that pits the wits of Ginny and her siblings against a harsh environment, and vicious gangs prowling the countryside.

The character designs are charming, and Hill does a splendid job of building a believably dangerous world in which the story takes place.

There are far too many coincidental meetings between key characters, and our heroes are saved once too often by friendly adults who just happen to arrive in the nick of time. Also, while the family is Vietnamese-American, I didn’t get a strong sense of any Vietnamese culture which would have given the characters greater depth. There also is little character development towards the end of the book. Ginny does most of her growing in the first half. Very few of the villans are as complicated or developed as our protagonists. Most of the baddies don’t have motivations that go beyond protecting their turf or being mean for mean’s sake.

Hill makes some bold choices with his art. Of particular note is the pink colour palette that creates some impactful juxtapositions. Some of the actions sequences are cinematic and dramatic. The panels are masterfully laid out, and the shot selection can’t be faulted. I genuinely liked Ginny, a hurt young woman looking for answers in an uncertain and treacherous world. She is resourceful, kind, and, determined. Being a teen, she also makes a lot of dumb decisions. She is a great heroine.

For YA readers there is much to enjoy. There are memorable characters, scenes of nail-biting tension, and, moments of tenderness and humour. For older readers, the story never quite reaches the heights one would expect considering how good the opening chapters are.

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